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Repetition - an underrated design tool?

In a new Gamasutra feature, designer Ara Shirinian argues that while repetitious video game design has a bad rap, it's a useful tool for getting players engaged when used wisely.
In a new feature, designer Ara Shirinian argues that while many modern games focus on feeding players constant novel situations, repetition has an undeserved bad rap. In new games, Shirinian writes, designers have discovered that adding variety to a game is a conceptually simple way to keep players interested. "In fact, it could be the most obvious and easiest way, in terms of planning, to ensure there is 'sufficient' novelty of experience to keep the largest number of players across the gamut of skill and preference engaged," he writes. Sandbox games, he writes, are the key example of this kind of design philosophy. "If a particular mission is too hard, you can give up on that and try a different mission. If you're tired of the mission format altogether, you can steal a taxicab and play as a taxi driver -- with a legitimate game structure wrapped around it..." This refreshing form of novelty, which made waves first with Grand Theft Auto III, mixed with a negative view of the grind (as exemplified by the RPG genre) is what gives repetition a bad rap, Shirinian argues. But games like Rock Band are the exact opposite, he argus. "It's not uncommon for players to practice the same song over and over for hours." The difference is that the players of these games, unlike those grinding in RPGs, are often working towards mastery and learning -- and entering that flow state we've read so much about in other Gamasutra features. For a full understanding of the differences between good and bad repetition in gameplay, read Shirinian's full feature, live now at Gamasutra.

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